Durable Human (2 book series)

Give Some Guidance with that Gadget

This holiday season if, like many parents, you’re wrapping up a smart phone, tablet or other electronic gadget or game for your child, there’s a must-have accessory: the family agreement.

You can print one out for free courtesy of the Family Online Safety Institute’s Platform for Good. PfG calls it an “online safety card,” but there’s more to it than that. You can spell out how much time your child can be online, which sites are okay to visit, and how much money (if any) your child can spend on apps, but you also promise to be supportive of your child’s use of the new item and not over-react if he or she stumbles on something you deem offensive.

PfG forms cover cell phones, smart phones, tablets, gaming systems and computers. You can print one as is, or use it as a model to write your own agreement.

I first wrote about the Platform for Good when it launched in September 2012. The Platform is actually more like a platter, serving up digital literacy and safety tools to parents and teachers. FOSI also wants to attract kids, but when I showed the site to my teenage son he wasn’t enthused. For one thing, he doesn’t like that they use the words “tech” and “teen.”  As he grumbled, “No one has to abbreviate any more now that there’s autocomplete!”

Technology has always been a testy issue for us. Growing up, he bristled under AOL’s parental controls. But as a captain of the family ship, I was always grateful I had them as backup as we taught him to navigate on his own.

In the same way, written agreements literally put families on the same page and provide a steady rudder to help children develop digital responsibility.

If you're not comfortable with the wording on the PfG form, just make one yourself.


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